Reviews

Shattered

Jake Meaney

Come for the Brash Young Ad Exec getting his come-uppance from Mysterious Sinister Stranger, but stay for the extras.


Shattered

Director: Mike Barker
Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Maria Bello, Gerard Butler
Distributor: Lionsgate
MPAA rating: R
First date: 2007
US DVD Release Date: 2007-12-25

Stop me if you think you've seen this one before:

Brash Young Ad Exec, rising star in the company. Beautiful wife, beautiful daughter, beautiful house, beautiful life. Everything is just as perfect as perfect can be. Except, maybe he's been a bit too brash, a bit too ruthless and careless. Maybe on his way up he cut a few shady deals, or screwed over the wrong person. And maybe this is all about to catch up to him…

Enter Mysterious Sinister Stranger with obvious ax to grind. He's come to shatter this bucolic middle class dream life, to bring everything crashing down in a storm of vengeance. Brash Young Ad Exec has obviously wronged Mysterious Sinister Stranger in some grievous way, and the latter will find no satisfaction until his carefully laid plans for revenge are played out to their harrowing end. Along the way, souls will be laid bare, tables will be turned, hidden sins will be dragged into the light, and the ends of desperation will be reached. And it will end badly for someone, you can bet on it.

So, yes, of course you've seen Shattered (aka Butterfly on a Wheel) before, because… well, because you've seen movies. This one courses along the well grooved paths of the countless kidnapping/revenge fueled movies that have come before it and will come after it. Its characters are cut from familiar stock, the dialogue is overheated and overwrought at precisely the right moments, and the "unpredictable" twists come exactly when you expect them. It’s almost a flawless textbook example of genre exercise, with little, aside from its excellent cast, to distinguish it from its predecessors.

And this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Revenge films, even when they fly on autopilot, work for a reason: they are reliable, predictable, and basic. They are the mom's mac and cheese of movies. Comfortable and comforting, they set reasonable expectations upon which they almost always deliver, and leave no residue of disappointment, of having thoroughly wasted two hours of your life. Shattered is a quick watch, tightly efficient, and mostly entertaining. It is not a particularly good movie, but it is good, for what it is.

And if it stands out at all, it's because of the casting of Pierce Brosnan as our ruthless villain, a hard, grizzled man driven to extremes to right a wrong. I like that Brosnan, whom I have always thought unfairly underrated, has been playing against type since being ousted as James Bond. His turn here isn't quite as remarkable or fun as his down and out hitman in The Matador, but it is a hoot to watch him half-ham it up as the type of baddie he had been in the habit of taking down.

In fact, while watching Shattered, I found myself wondering if, in a totally pomo gonzo stunt-casting move, Brosnan wouldn't in fact make a great Bond villain himself, squaring off against Daniel Craig. Or maybe not -- Brosnan has the sort magnetic charisma that makes it almost impossible to root against him. He's suave and slick, sure, but always eminently likeable. Even at his most diabolical here in Shattered, I was still pulling for him to get Brash Young Ad Exec good, and to exact the full measure of his revenge.

Shattered arrives on DVD with a generic array of extras: behind-the-scenes features, deleted scenes, and a puff piece by cast members about how awesome Pierce Brosnan is to work with. In fact, Shattered might as well be a straight to DVD release. Although it received a limited run in a few scattered locations, it was actually broadcast on TNT for its official run, and then went straight to home release. Which, I guess, makes it a marginally better film if we assess it as a made for TV movie rather than a theatrical film, though I guess that wasn't the intention. No matter…

Anyway, I fired up the commentary track with director Mike Barker and writer William Morrissey, expecting something equally generic to the film itself, but then something funny happened. Barker and Morrissey, brimming with good cheer and enthusiasm, came out of the gate laying into both their film and themselves. I wouldn't call it mocking or overly snarky -- they both obviously like the film and are proud of it -- but they know how to have fun, and know that they aren't exactly remaking Citizen Kane. It's a Statler and Waldrof style of heckling maybe, providing more a sort of Mystery Science Theater style running commentary than the usual boring on set anecdotes and what not.

I loved it. It was easily one of the most entertaining and enjoyable commentary tracks I've ever sat through, as well as one of the more informative ultimately. One moment they are goofing on the title of the film by wondering why Tom Berenger was cut from the final film (a reference to the excellent 1991 neo-noir of the same name. As indicated earlier, Shattered was originally titled the Butterfly on the Wheel, a reference to an Alexander Pope poem, before undergoing a rather unfortunate title change for American release). One minute Barker and Morrissey are asking one another whether there are awards given for best commentary, and the next they're throwing around great little stories about the tactics of shooting complex shots on city streets with minimal budgets and no permits. And then they are back to extolling the various allures of Maria Bello for 10-minute stretches, sounding more like two smitten schoolboys than professional filmmakers.

I don't know that I've ever recommended a DVD based strictly on the commentary, but if I was going to, Shattered would be at the top of the pile. While not exactly the award winning performance they hope, the filmmakers' running dialogue is at least equal to the film on its own, if not better. But what does it say about a film when its own commentary is more intriguing and entertaining than the film itself?

5

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image